Opinion by Tony Orman. This is an abridged version of an address to the NZ Outdoor Party’s recent AGM in Nelson
Advocate for democracy because it is the number one issue heading to 2023.
The trout and salmon and duck shooting public and their organisation Fish and game are currently under threat of a partial State takeover by the Department of Conservation. The review was initiated by the previous minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage who has made no secret of her hatred of introduced species of fish and game such as trout, deer, tahr and others..
Underlying but just under the surface of the Fish and Game Review 2021, is the replacing of democratically elected councillors with State appointments, i.e., puppets.
It’s not the first time a government has tried to take over Fish and Game which goes back to the days of Fish and Game’s predecessor Acclimatisation Societies.
For example way, way back in 1974 there was a government proposal called the Hunn Commission, to reorganise acclimatisation societies the predecessor of today’s fish and game councils.
The Hunn Commission proposal was a thinly disguised attempt to impose state control on the politically independent acclimatisation society structure with its democratically elected councils. Most concerning was the proposal for a national executive which would see sportsmen’s representatives in a minority to government appointees.
Even back then, the imposition of state control of acclimatisation societies was nothing new. There had attempts back in the 1930s driven by the Labour government’s Internal Affairs Minister William Parry
Some attempts have been more subtle and not so blatant but nevertheless they have occurred.
This year’s attempt by the Adern-led Labour government via the Department of Conservation is probably the 15th or 16th as far as I can ascertain.
And the current proposals would see government appointees – or state puppets – on not only the national council but regional fish and game councils too.
Inescapable is that this is an attack on democracy by the Adern-led government.
In 2017 former prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer wrote a startling blog post expressing concern about the declining state of democracy in New Zealand. It surely should have been headline news but it wasn’t. Which raises a large question marks about the media’s competency and sense of responsibility.
Palmer’s statement was aimed at a National government, led by John Key.
Palmer had very good reason to be concerned. One action by the government was totally unprecedented.
April Fool’s Day
Almost eleven years ago, on April Fool’s day 2010, Nick Smith, then minister for the environment and government sacked the democratically elected Environment Canterbury (ECan) council and replaced it with state commissioners by passing the ECan Act.
The move outraged the Law Society Rule of Law Committee which denounced the ECan Act as repugnant to the Rule of Law. Most were appalled.
But it went through pushed by National’s Nick Smith.
In April 2016 Nick Smith was at his dictatorial best when he removed the right of local councils to consider and hear submissions on 1080 poison aerial drops and put the final and only say with central government i.e. Nick Smith – with any public input totally abolished.
It was in political terms, strange philosophically for a National government – the 1080 issue and the ECan takeover were unashamedly dictatorial state control removing any vestige of public say.
The signs of the erosion of democracy have been evident in ther instances.
I can recall making submissions on trout farming in the early 1970s where I was allowed to speak for an hour and then answer questions from MPs for half an hour. I made submissions to other Select Committees. To the Maori Fisheries Bill 1990 I was granted over an hour.
But the erosion of democracy was underway.
In 2004 the government’s ERMA review of 1080 was a “kangaroo court” with submitters restricted to only five minutes. it was a token gesture to consultation. – lip service only.
The two big poison spreaders DOC and OSPRI had requested the review. That was a pointer to it being a farce. The ERMA review in 1080 gave the poison the green light despite expert and scientific-baed evidence.
Last year, the Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of New Zealand (CORANZ) pointed out that parliament’s select committee democratic process was being undermined to the detriment of the public giving submissions.
Current CORANZ Chairman Andi Cockroft had made an oral submission to a select committee dealing with the Resource Management Act (RMA).
After being beforehand, granted 15 minutes speaking time the chairman Labour’s Duncan Webb interrupted Andi Cockroft’s submission after five minutes and said the committee had heard enough thereby cutting the oral presentation short by ten minutes.
It was an insult to CORANZ and to democracy.
Senior Public Servant
Undeniably MPs are really public servants voted in to serve the public interest.
Don’t call our Prime Minister our leader. Jacinda Adern is simply the most senior public servant in NZ.
The National government was voted out in 2017.
But the new coalition government of Labour, Greens and NZ First continued the government trend of diminishing democracy.
Firearm law changes following the Christchurch March 15, 2019 mosque tragedy, were rushed through in just a few days. Over 12,000 submissions were considered in just two days – defying credibility and again insulting democracy.
Some columnists have examined the erosion of democracy. A number have identified complacency by the public or in other words apathy.
Greek philosopher Plato wrote “The price of apathy is to be ruled by evil men.”
I’m deeply concerned that New Zealanders are oblivious. Some were numbed by the Rogernomics dictatorship of the 1980s.
Others just couldn’t give a stuff born out of selfishness with no thought for future generations.
The public believe Parliament is the place of democracy – where you could get a fair hearing from elected representatives based on a historical and moral constitution of honour, truth and justice. It is not a charade.
But politicians and bureaucrats are dismantling democracy before your very own eyes.
© Tony Orman – politicians and bureaucrats are dismantling democracy before your very own eyes.